By Katherine Long | Editor
Faithful were called to “embrace their God-given vocation in life” and “provide Christ Jesus with a dwelling place in today’s world as did St. Joseph” Nov. 14 as Bishop Douglas J. Lucia kicked off the Year of Vocations in the Diocese of Syracuse.
“We come together to begin this year of prayer for vocations under the patronage of St. Joseph,” the bishop told those gathered at the Cathedral and joining the Votive Mass via livestream. “St. Joseph — who in his own life had to open his life to God’s call when he had other plans, when he had thought he had what he knew he wanted to do in life. And yet God asked of him to follow a different path, to be part of God’s dream. And that’s what you and I are being invited to do this morning. Our prayer is a prayer that we will always be open to God’s way in our lives.”
The Year of Vocations, declared by Bishop Lucia, is a diocesanwide effort to help all baptized Catholics discover God’s call in their lives. The year will run through the Feast of Christ the King Nov. 21, 2021.
In his homily, Bishop Lucia reflected on the coming season of Advent and the accompanying Nativity scenes that will be placed in the center of many homes.
“Without the figures of the Nativity set, there is no Nativity scene,” he said. “Analogously, without new figures to replace worn figures, there is no Nativity scene. So how do you and I, then, brothers and sisters, help portray the ‘hidden mystery’ that is contained therein into the present moment?”
“Again, I turn to Mary and Joseph, who allowed the mystery of God’s call and their vocation in life to grow over time,” he continued. “Both would come to know that through the working of the Holy Spirit, through openness to God’s presence in their lives, that God would continue to work through them, and with them, and in them, as they literally brought forth into the waiting world the Word Incarnate.
“And that is what this Year of Vocations is all about here in the Diocese of Syracuse. Brothers and sisters, like Joseph and Mary, you and I are being invited to consider how we fit into God’s plan, into the bustling scene of Christ’s birth into the world…. What role are we being asked, then, to take on — as husband, father, mother, wife, priest, deacon, consecrated person, lay minister — in response to our baptismal calling to walk as a child of the light and to keep the flame of faith burning brightly in today’s world?”
“In calling to mind the need for people to embrace their God-given vocation in life, we seek to provide Christ Jesus with a dwelling place in today’s world as did St. Joseph. We ask him to help this local Church to build a culture of vocations in our parishes so that God’s dream can continue to be known and make a difference here in Central New York and beyond.” (Read Bishop Lucia’s homily in full on page 3 of this issue.)
Bishop Lucia then blessed a traveling icon of St. Joseph displayed in the sanctuary. Portraying a youthful St. Joseph, the icon will be hosted in parishes across the diocese throughout the Year of Vocations. The icon is to be placed in the sanctuary of the host parish with a votive candle and the parish will pray for vocations during the week and offer a Holy Hour for an increase in vocations for the region. Some 30 parishes have already registered to host the icon; parishes can register to host at vocations-syracuse.org.
A daylong, virtual Vocations Summit followed the Mass. Some 181 participants representing 79 parishes registered for the workshop, according to Father Jason Hage, director of the Office of Vocation Promotion.
The workshop was hosted by Father Hage and led by vocation ministry author and speaker Rhonda Gruenewald. Over two sessions, Gruenewald offered tools and resources — based on her book “Hundredfold” and accompanying website vocationministry.com — to help attendees develop a parish vocation action plan aimed at promoting vocations to the priesthood, marriage, and consecrated life.
Gruenewald walked participants through starting and sustaining a successful vocation ministry, based on her own experience doing so in her home parish in Texas. She offered guidance on how to educate the faithful and how to encourage young people to consider a call to religious life. She also encouraged participants to understand that vocation ministry is a marathon, not a sprint.
“The guiding scripture for today’s presentation is ‘Some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit yielding thirty-, sixty-, and hundredfold [Matthew 15:8],’” Gruenewald said. “See, we are the gardener…. Your job as the gardener is to prepare the soil for vocations with prayer, awareness, education, youth [outreach], and affirmation…. You’re just getting the soil ready so that when the Holy Spirit is ready he can easily plant seeds of holiness and that big call, that vocation call, can happen.”
Father Hage said he was “blown away” by the response from parishes and that feedback on the summit had been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“People are primed and ready,” he told the Sun in an email. “This is truly a work of the Holy Spirit. This Vocations Summit gave us the spark we needed to empower lay people in our diocese to be the first vocation promoters on the frontlines of our parishes. I am confident that this will bear tremendous fruit in the years to come.”